British Columbia

B.C. college defends naturopathy in court, says it isn't an 'anything goes' profession

The lawyer for B.C.'s naturopathic regulator has pushed back on a suggestion that the profession is not "bound by science" during a court hearing related to one naturopath's business producing fecal transplants for autistic children.

Jason Klop is asking a judge to strike down ban on fecal transplant sales and probes into his business

B.C. naturopath Jason Klop claims he can treat autism spectrum disorder in children with fecal microbiota transplants. (Novel Biome)

The lawyer for B.C.'s naturopathic regulator has pushed back on a suggestion that the profession is not "bound by science" during a court hearing related to one naturopath's business producing fecal transplants for autistic children.

The College of Naturopathic Physicians of B.C. is fighting two court petitions filed by Jason Klop, who is asking a judge to limit the investigations into his practice and quash his ban on manufacturing, advertising and selling pills and enemas made from human feces.

In B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday, college lawyer Angela Westmacott addressed a statement from Klop's lawyer, who earlier argued that "naturopaths may rely on science, but they are not bound by science."

Westmacott pointed to provisions in the college's code of conduct and prescribing standards that suggest naturopaths must follow evidence-based practices.

"This notion that it's anything goes, in my respectful submission, that's not accurate," she said.

Westmacott argued that Klop's legal challenges are based on a misinterpretation of the law and a misunderstanding of the role of investigators with the college's inquiry committee.

Klop has argued he's only involved with the manufacturing and export of fecal microbiota transplants [FMT] through his business Novel Biome, and it's unrelated to his practice of naturopathic medicine.

Westmacott countered that the evidence gathered so far by the college and undercover private investigators suggests Klop is also counselling parents, advocating that they try FMT for their kids and monitoring them during treatment, all of which would fall directly within his role and responsibilities as a naturopath.

"The concern is that Dr. Klop seems to be using his ND [naturopathic doctor] title, his affiliation with the college, to legitimize his business and make claims about the efficacy of FMT for autism that are not supported by Health Canada guidelines," Westmacott said.

Naturopath is fighting 'extraordinary action'

As CBC first reported in January 2020, Klop has been charging parents about $15,000 US for autistic children as young as two years old to have FMT, mainly at a clinic in the Mexican oceanside city of Rosarito.

FMT treatments involve taking bacteria and other microbes from the poop of a healthy person and transferring them to a patient either anally or orally, with the goal of restoring a normal environment inside the gut.

Right now, FMT is only approved in Canada and the U.S. for the treatment of recurrent C. difficile infection that hasn't responded to other therapies, but research is underway into a wide range of other possible applications.

Doctors and scientists have warned that, at the moment, any other use of this emerging therapy is experimental and carries a serious risk of infection, while people with autism have denounced Klop's procedure as an unproven treatment that puts vulnerable children in danger.

An illustration shows how fecal microbiota transplants are produced. (Vancouver Island Health Authority)

Last August, the college announced it was taking "extraordinary action" to protect the public, banning Klop from producing or selling FMT products while it investigates his Novel Biome.

The order came in response to an April 2021 complaint from a former employee at Klop's lab, who alleged that he was producing FMT products in an apartment in Abbotsford using his nephews' feces without proper quality control or screening.

Klop has filed two petitions with the court. One asks for a judge to quash the extraordinary action, and the second calls for an order preventing the college from investigating his production and export business.

Klop's lawyer, Jason Gratl, clarified Wednesday that he is not trying to block any of the college's investigations into Klop's advertising in Canada, his allegedly unsupported claims about the efficacy of FMT for autism or allegations of engaging in improper business relationships.

During the first day of hearings on Tuesday, Gratl argued that the college's inquiry committee hasn't shown enough evidence of harm to patients to support its actions.

But Westmacott said those arguments are based on a misunderstanding of how the inquiry committee works. It's an investigatory body, not a fact-finding body — and any evidence of misconduct would be weighed at a disciplinary hearing once the investigation has wrapped up.

She said if Klop wished to prove that the conditions in his lab are sanitary and in compliance with the law, he is welcome to present evidence directly to the inquiry committee and argue there for his ban to be lifted.

Westmacott added that the inquiry committee has "very broad" powers to investigate naturopaths and a mandatory responsibility to look into any complaint that is filed. 

"If they have any information that suggests there might be an issue with someone's conduct, that's enough," Westmacott said.

"This isn't a police officer detaining someone at the side of the road. … Professionals have a diminished right to privacy under the legislation."

Meanwhile, she noted that Klop has failed to fully co-operate with the investigations into his practice, which have been underway since August 2019. She said he has repeatedly refused to provide financial records and other information about his advertising and claims requested by the college.

The hearing of Klop's petitions to the court is scheduled to continue on Thursday.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bethany Lindsay

Journalist

Bethany Lindsay is a B.C. journalist with a focus on the courts, health, science and social justice issues. Questions or news tips? Get in touch at bethany.lindsay@cbc.ca or on Twitter through @bethanylindsay.

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